Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men: First class, nor the characters therein.

Erik Lensherr was a worldly man, enough to know this. There was no good news to be had at 3'Oclock in the morning. So when he wakes, the reverberations of Erik ringing through his ears, it had better be important. World War III important, - not another 'Oh, look what Hank has discovered about the human genome' that a certain professor is prone towards. The jolt of another's voice, presence, brushing against his brain is still disconcerting enough to leave him disgruntled, if not wholly surprised. "Damn Charles and his telepathy to." He should be angry about this, really, but he isn't. Charles' with his high-brow scruples and pesky morals has the decency to stay out of his head uninvited, mostly.

"Charles" he grunts levering himself off his pillow, a fraction. "Its far to early for social calls in my head at" he peers blearily at the time, "at three in the fucking morning." He projects his thoughts, wrapping them in thorns and morning-grumbled voices, with the practiced air of a man used to having his headspace invaded in the early morning hours by over eager telepaths. Telepath, singular really, because he only knows the one. Shaw's doesn't count.

Charles remains strangely silent. Erik sits up straighter.


Erik props himself up fully already grasping for clothes. The faint brush of touching, mind to mind, feels stagnant. Wrong. Worry begins to seep into the edges of his thoughts, creeping like an unwelcome shadow traversing the cracks of his mind.

"Erik." His name only, a muted murmur that tangles against the senses. And for one frantic, terrifying moment, their minds fuse. Erik, he hears, his own name bouncing along the confines of his head the consonants worn, cracked, as though they've become an endless litany. Fear, its taste bitter and strong smothers him to submission, and he - they - can barely breathe or think beyond it, as it pulses across his - their - skin, over his eyes - blue on blue. Phantom hands griping-touching-holding pinpricks of pain, distant dulled, not his not Erik's -Charles-, bleed together into disjointed thoughts.

Why? It hurts - bloody hell does it - no, no, feel nothing.

I can do this. Feel nothing.

I can manage this. Feel. Nothing!

Erik anchors himself, a port in the storm weighed down and unmovable, as he grasps for the frayed edge of the telepaths mind. Charles! Calm. Your. Mind. There is a long pause, the riot tearing through him calling a sharp cease-and-desist.


His head pounds, the room spinning woozily, and the pain, its been ages since he'd felt like this. No wait, this isn't his, this is…Erik, get out, you have to, now!

This is Charles. That fails to make this any better, only worse. Infinitely so, even. Head throbbing as the telepath shoves, prods, and pushes him away, out, he doesn't understand.

You have enough pain, you need not shoulder mine.

And suddenly, abruptly, Erik is alone, in his head and his room, to think of strangers hands on him, on Charles, and thinks of decapitated hands instead.

Erik throws off his sheets and dresses praying he is acting the fool, that Charles is safely tucked away in his rooms with a bottle of scotch in hand. He prays this is what's happened and in the morning, proper morning, he will give the man hell over his sleeping-projections. So, where you dreaming of me then? He'll ask just to watch the professor redden above the collar, stark against the pressed-white of his shirt. For now Erik makes for Charles' room. But this is fantast, only, and Erik lives very much in the now. And right now Charles is somewhere out there, needing him, and he hasn't a fucking clue where.

Alex frowns as he hurries past but he ignores him cursing the mansion and damnably long hallways until he reaches the door, it isn't locked but that means nothing. Charles, trusting fool that he is, never locks it. He steps inside to find a bed still made, with no Charles occupying it.

Erik breathes deep nostrils flaring at the rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins in a twisted mess of anger-fear-worry vibrating beneath the skin. Distantly, he hears the metal dishware rattling like unseen chains with each indrawn breath.

"Charles, where are you?"

Again his only answer was the deafening silence in his head. It was wrong, this empty hollow space where Charles should have been. It felt inexplicably wrong. He keeps calm, trying again.

"Charles. Where. Are. You?"

Erik has never felt the silence of his own mind to be so damning, so unwelcome than in that moment where he knows he is completely alone in it.


Alex touches his arm and he nearly takes the kids head off for it. "What's goin' on?" the kid asks, behind him he can see Raven peering out from her room a pink terrycloth bath towel wrapped around her. Soon they will have all woken. What does he tell them? What would Charles tell them? Erik settled for the truth. Let the professor smooth any ruffled feathers when he returned, he was good at that.

"I don't know, but something's wrong."

"Something's wrong with the professor, you mean, don't you?" Alex said studying the empty room. Erik said nothing, the empty room says enough. He reaches out for the steady hum of metal, letting it calm the frayed edges of his thoughts. Panic will do him no good.

"Raven" he barks out, startling the girl, "where did your brother go last evening?"

He can see her thinking brow creased in a way he might find, a little, charming if he wasn't busy being distracted by thoughts of her brother.

"He mentioned The Tavern, good for a few drinks not much more - clientele isn't his sort" she blurts, realizing what she's let slip she backtracks hastily. "Not that, I mean, he wouldn't because…" she trails off looking at him like she's forgotten he isn't the telepath in this mansion. Erik suspects he knows what it is she meant but hasn't the time to find it gratifying. He files the information away to be pulled out and examined later. Later when Charles is here, safe.

"We're coming with you" Raven said, it was more question than demand though. Erik snorted, "No, your not." He wanted them here far, far away from whatever had happened, was happening to Charles, and talking was wasting time. Clothes rustled as she crossed her arms, this and her soft breaths the only indication that she was even there, she walked so silently behind. "You cant make me stay here."

Erik stopped abruptly. The look in his eyes clear, yes, actually he could, it said. Raven groaned. "Fine, maybe you can, but Charles was my brother first" she muttered defiantly meeting his gaze. Erik gives her points for guts. He wouldn't meet his gaze right now. Unfortunately she also sounds more like a five year old claiming her favorite teddy-bear than a mature woman and the effect is somewhat dampened.

"I don't have time for this" he said physically setting her to the side. She is startled enough by this that it is easier than he had expected. She is Charles precious, precocious sister so he dredges up a small measure of patience. The last thing he needs is her herring off after him. Getting in the way. There's only one sure way to make certain she's say. Erik exploited it ruthlessly.

"You and I both now he'd want you safe, here, tell me I'm wrong." Ravens eyes drop but the stiffness of her shoulders remain. "I didn't think so."

"It was probably just a drunken projection anyways."

"In which case you can make fun of him all you like when I drag him back" he agreed sliding into his jacket, "that is a sisters prerogative isn't it?" Erik deliberately keeps his tone light, if she knew, if she even suspected, nothing short of killing her would keep her at Westchester. And killing her would negate the point. Keeping her safe.

Raven snorted a laugh, "fine, you win." Erik smiled a shark smile, harsh and cruel at the corner, "I always win."

Raven backed down, she was a smart girl after all. He left them at the door to Westchester with instructions to contact their CIA liaison if he doesn't return within the hour. Regardless, Erik knows that before the hour is up they will follow. Irritated pride glows in his chest. They really are an exceptional bunch of young people when they aren't controlled by their hormonal tendencies.

Erik drives. He doesn't see the scenery fly by, he doesn't smell the clean-cut grass, he barely sees the lines on the road. Instead he revisit's the night that changed everything. Hands gripping him firmly, a surge of warmth cresting through his mind even as the chill of water had sunk bone deep. A voice in his head. Masculine. English.

Erik, you're not alone.

Charles had taken four works, strung them together and made them matter, then he'd made Erik think, maybe he did too. It shouldn't have mattered so much, shouldn't have come to mean so much more, but it had. And for the first time in to long Erik considered, if only in a fit of mad fancy, things beyond blood and vengeance. Things like him.


It began harmlessly enough, restless nights cooped in sterile CIA rooms the impending clutch of confinement eased with intellectual conversations and liberal amounts of alcohol. He should have split then, taken what he needed, wanted, and run. But he didn't. Somewhere between Langley and Washington, stuffed in cheap rentals, road tripping across country they had become friends. Leaving was no longer an option.

They argued, a lot, and he loved every second. Quiet evenings retied in Charles study debating over a ruthless game of chess became a favorite pastime. He relished their debates watching Charles gesture with hands, passionate, beautiful in his convictions. Even if they were wrong. A man was allowed his foibles'. Charles was not, after all, a saint. But he was good. There had been far to few good things in Erik's life for him to let go of the best of them now.

The panels of the car screamed mercy under the onslaught of grinding metal.

Erik inhaled purposefully, loosing his breath in a rush, he needed to stay calm. "Everything will be okay," he thinks the words more like something the professor would say because Erik knows no such thing. The convertible rattled precariously as it trundled its way down the road. He spots the beginnings of a town looming in the distance endless fields interrupted by fence lines and manors that sit like blots in the distance.

He will have reached the town in a matter of minutes. It eases the knot in his gut, but not by much. Memories scatter across the surface of his mind, the camps, Shaw, the warm splash of blood against his arm…and the knowledge of how far from okay things are going to be. Panic bludgeons against the walls of calm he's built around himself, and this is most frightening of all. He turns his mind to what has already been to stave it off. Looks, lingering, overlong - a contented buzz in his chest - warm from to much whiskey, touches slow to retract - jolts of electric simmering lightly under the surface - simply a friendly pat, the hint of cinnamon and cologne that insistently clung to Charles person, - not so odd to notice, they do spend an awful lot of time together. Once he had hated that smell, now he is ambivalent with leanings towards fondness.

This is harder to excuse. So he doesn't. He's smitten there's no two ways about it.

Sometimes, when the mad fancy strikes, Erik pretends this dance of theirs, scotch, chess, and Charles affectionate 'you possess a very singular mutation, my friend' is the British form of seduction done Charles Xavier style. Others he wonders when he became such a coward.

Something like regret, and a lot like bitterness, curled in his gut. He wishes many things, but locked in this moment he wishes he could go back to that very first meeting, two strangers sopping wet on deck, and kiss him. Bruising and harsh and utterly sincere. It's the sincerity that would make Charles allow it.

So much time wasted, so much gone. This is what he would have done differently. Determined, Erik buried these errant thoughts, they had no place in today, or tomorrow, or likely ever.

Faint light scatters across the sleeping town lying on the outskirts of the Westchester Mansion painting it in colors of dappled gray. It is beautiful in all its waking glory but ultimately wasted on Erik who only knows that the first rays of morning have come and Charles has been absent half the night God knows where. It is a deeply, obtrusively, troubling thought so he puts it aside in favor of cataloguing all the darkest alleys, calculating the best tactics, the strong hum-humming of metal at his beckoning, a pleasant thrill rising at the thought of knocking down doors. Erik kills the engine in the nearest lot and walks to the middle of the paved roadway waiting. Nothing happens and his disappointment is palpable. His head feels empty without the pleasant brush of Charles' mind-touch to fill it.

Erik starts with the Tavern pub.

The barkeeper looked up from wiping down the counter when he strides through the door, the collar of his jacket turned up against the cold. "Startin' in a spot early ain't you, mate?" he asked. Erik assesses him and relaxes, this man is barely thirty, graying at the temples, with the beginnings of a paunch from so much drink and to little exercise. He is no threat.

"I'm looking for a man that came here last night, Charles Xavier, stands about so high" he gestures to a little above his shoulder, "blue eyed and dark haired, likely was wearing a tweed grey overcoat…" he sees recognition and hope unfurls, he squashes it down viciously, there is no room for that until he has eyes on Charles in the flesh. Anything lesser is here-say.

"Right, real professor type that one, fine arse too" the barkeeper commented, "I remember that chap, real nice sort." Erik's fists clenched but he kept his temper in check. If he strangled the man he'd never get the information he needed and finding Charles took precedence over any petty jealousies he harbored. The bearded man never realized how close he came to being garroted by the catholic symbol worn round his neck.

"He never came home last night. I need to find him."

"Is that so?"

The bartender scratched his beard, Erik waited. "A couple local lads showed last night, saw them chattin' up your professor, or more like tryin' to half the night, he didn't seem much interested." The man paused, hesitating, the corner of his eye twitching. "Leastways not until he'd had a few in him."

"Did he - did he leave with anyone?" Erik demanded his hands spread out against the hard metal of the bar counter, it hummed pleasantly under his touch. The bartender sighed holding up his hands in the universal sign for peace. "Look mate, if your boyfriend got up to somethin' with somebody in my bar it ain't my fault, understand, I just serve the drinks."

Erik scrubbed at his face, wiping grit from his eyes.

"This isn't what it seems alright? I got a call at three in the fucking morning, and I think he's in trouble" Erik growled low and wordless leaning across the bar, "so I'm only going to ask this once, who did he leave with, and where can I find them?"

The bartenders whole face changed as he fell into a cursing fit, he had a sailors mouth on him, too. "Why didn't you say, that changes things, yeah?" he babbled tossing out a few addresses for the nearest places to hunker down after a bender. "Bleedin' Christ on a cross" he muttered shaking his head, "I knew they were trouble, ain't never should have revoked that ban" he grumbled speaking more to the tabletop than the man across it.

"These local lads, they usually stick to low-rent motels, that place round the corner would be a good start" he suggested, "watch yourself mate, they're a rough lot."

And Charles had been alone with them all night. A cold knot of dread wedged itself in Eriks' belly. His friend wasn't helpless, much as he looked it at times, his mutation was nothing to be laughed at but one way or another it had been overcome. Had these stupid little humans drugged his drink? Knocked him over the head, maybe? Worse yet, had a fellow mutant been behind this?

Then and there Erik decided, human, mutant, they would pay in blood for every mark, every bruise, on Charles skin. He would kill his own kind for this man. It was a sobering thought.

Erik steps into the decaying motel keeping his eye on the hippies in the corner and the shady man hogging the doorway. If he had eyes in the back of his head he'd have kept that one on the man propped against the stairwell, he looked shifty eyed and nervous. Guilty people always looked nervous.

He leaned against the counter affecting an aura of calm as he turned his attentions to the red-headed woman behind it. Plump and pleasant enough to look at and far to easily maneuvered. Excellent, an easy mark. He adopted a rueful expression. "I'm looking for some pals of mine, you see I've had a bit much to drink and have forgotten the room number…" Erik smiled, no teeth merely a sharp upward quirk of his lips. It worked efficiently.

"No problem doll, happens all the time" she assured him, a slender manicured hand lying atop his own. He resisted the urge to yank it back.

"A few colleages and my friend Chuck checked in but I cant seem to recall which room." He send out a mental apology for bastardizing his friends name but saw no pressing need to drag it through whatever it was he'd find here. Gossip spread like wildfire in small towns.

Before the red-head could ask for names he couldn't give and ruin the whole point of these niceties Erik added more detail. Enough detail and she'd buy this song and dance, hook, line, and sinker. "He would have flirted shamelessly, there might have been some science babble, too." Erik waited holding his patience by a thread as his fingers drummed out a rhythm against the mustard-yellow countertop.

"Not to tall is he?" she tittered, Erik grit his teeth and held his tongue, "grey coat right, bit professor like, but brilliant eyes, yes? Your friend, does he have a girl?" she asked her mouth curling into a coquettish smile.

"No" Erik said nodding curtly, "the room number?"

"Room 6 doll, tell your buddies that checkout is due at 8 o'clock sharp or they'll be paying for the whole day!" she called after his retreating back. Erik ignores her as he takes the stares two at a time door number six suddenly before him he freezes, fist poised to knock. He takes a moment to regroup, considering the possibility that Charles is entertaining, the telepathic sending a fluke, a nightmare, and the very real chance that his presence will be wholly unwelcome. Its an unsavory notion.

First to register is the obscene creak of bed hinges, mutterings seeping out beneath the cracks of the door, followed after by soft spoken no's. A repetitive litany of them, in fact.

In one fluid motion he ramed the full weight of his shoulder against the door, it shuddered giving way beneath his superior strength. "Charles!" he shouts with voice and thought alike standing in the doorway searching out his friend, reaching with his mind. Emotions, the barest shadow of them really - muted and hollowed out - rush into his subconscious and he lets them in like wayward children to be shushed. The mutiny in his head, momentarily, blinding his eyes.

But then he sees him, them, Charles and him. He's on his knees bent forward, vulnerable and exposed on his belly a dark flush of embarrassment sweeping down the back of his neck, down, down, down. Erik jerks his head sideways averting his eyes. Erik crosses the room in three strides his grip closing like a vice around the man on the bed.

There were three of them. In that moment not even a hundred men could have stopped him.

"Ack! What's all this about?" the red bearded man snapped picking himself from the floor where he'd been tossed. Erik stared him down his eyes flickering briefly to Charles who lay still and quiet on the dirtied sheets. Erik didn't need to be a telepath to see the humiliation coursing through the blue-eyed man, it was written plain in the refusal to meet his eye. And he'd thought he couldn't possibly get angrier. How wrong he was.

"Now look here, it were only a bit of fun" the man said sniggered uneasily. They were the mans last words as Erik strangled him with his own necklace. It was over quickly, later Erik would lament, to quickly. The other two men rushed Erik, fists swinging. Erik knocked them aside sending one sprawling, insensate. The other, a short barrel chest man, had the gall to look between he and Charles and sneer.

"Your boys a cock-slut mate, isn't that right Charlie?" the man sing-songed circling Erik like he thought he stood a chance. "You don't speak to him" Erik snarled, positioning himself between Charles and the man, "ever."

The man smirked a hard glint in his eye. "I did more than, already, but tell you what mate you can have him if you like, imagine he's loose as a three-dollar whore now."

The room shook, metal bending, tearing from the structure of the building, its hum-hum growling loud and incessant in his ear. He could kill this mane, one flick of his wrist would send shards of metal straight through his eyes directly to the brain, but he didn't.

He swung a closed fist that connected with the mans cheek, a satisfying crack of bone reaching his ears as bone crunched, the man went down hard and for every time he pulled himself to his knees Erik sent him back down until his knuckles bled sluggishly and the man became no more than a quivering lump of whimpers at his feet.

"Erik?" Charles mind tentatively reached out. Erik grabbed tight to the thought holding it close and dear, "I'm here" he sent back, "you're not alone."

Phantom pain spiked across his body, shame that was not his own curling tight and encompassing at the pit of his stomach. He took it as his own and gladly that it might halve his friends burden. "Charles" Erik said bleakly, at a loss.

The man bleeding across the floor latched onto his legs begging in an incoherent babble. Erik shoved him aside turning his focus to Charles who was attempting to wriggle from the ropes binding his wrists and looking with desperation at his discarded clothes.

Erik was at his side in seconds, snapping off the ties with his pocketknife and cataloguing the damage with his eyes, as he thought as hard as he could about the clean-cut smell of winter rains, the glide of sunlight across yellowed fields, projecting calm with every fiber of his being. It was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but it worked, that hunted desperate look in Charles eyes fading to something lesser as Erik searched out his clothes laying them out on the bed beside him.

There was blood. Of course there was, slivers of red glinting wetly across his neck from overeager biting, on his back running down his vertebrae in broad strokes, and a smattering of it spread liberally down his thighs. "They must have rutted like animals for that kind of damage." Erik buried the thought soon as it arose, glancing carefully at Charles. The man didn't seem to have caught that stray thought as he stared off into some place over Erik's shoulder.

"It looks worse than it is." Erik looked at Charles sharply, his mouth tightening at the corners. The Englishman met his gaze, dead on but forced, and it dawned on the other mutant that he might not want a witness to his disgrace. Erik understood, to well, but it could not be helped. For one blinding, stupid, moment he considered letting Charles wipe the incident clean, before he shuddered off the thought. He wasn't prepared for that, yet.

"That will hardly be necessary."

Erik scratched his neck, awkward, the silence dragging out in a way it never had before. He could almost see the walls rising up, that English veneer of outward calm wrapping around Charles as he reclaimed some semblance of dignity - how Charles managed this starker's was beyond him, but he did, buttoning his shirt with shaky hands. Erik knocked them aside in favor of doing it up himself.

"Don't do this" he said sharply. "Don't do what?" Charles asked tilting his head a little to the side. He'd expected a little more - more something - rather than this self imposed calm from the telepath. "It wasn't right, it wasn't normal." Instantly a blanket of aloof calmness doused him, it was startling, to feel like he'd had a bucket of ice dropped on his brain.

"Ah but Erik, neither of us two is normal, are we." Erik's jaw tightened and his eyes narrowed. "Don't make this less than it is, don't - just don't."

Charles turned inward face blank and empty, there were tracks of red where he must have cried, earlier in the night, they were dry now. The only thing to belay his affected calm was the tremble of his hands and the subtle shift of his body, angled away from Erik. Charles always leaned towards him, always. It hurt a little that he didn't now. More than ever Erik wanted to hear these men scream, beg, for mercy. He wanted it as badly as he wanted Shaw. No, that wasn't right either, he needed it to ease this terrible ache in his chest.

Charles gasped, loud and harsh in the silence of the room hands clawing around Erik's wrist, but his voice was steady. "Erik, my friend, its not so bad as that," he promised eyes flicking upward, he tried out a smile that was more worn than wry. "Nothing a bit of time can't mend, yes?"

Erik snaps shaking his head, cursing low and viciously. "Let me kill them" he demanded, a hint of beleaguered desperation twining the words. Charles rubs his temple and Erik immediately banks his temper, but none of his conviction. Charles had done so much for him, and when it counted, when it really matter he had failed. He didn't know how to fix that.

"I do not need fixing Erik, you only fix things that are broken" Charles bit out, some of his own anger peeking through, "and I am not" he said, far more softly. "Of course not" Erik granted, because it sounded the thing to say, even if it was a lie.

Charles looked at the room while Erik looked at him, waiting for his reaction, the one he got was not what he had expected. "Thank you, Erik, I - I wasn't entirely certain you'd even heard me, everything was so muddled in my head, stuffed full of cotton as it were."

"Don't thank me, ever, I would have done anything, given anything at all, to have gotten here sooner" his vehemence clearly startled the telepath. "Even Shaw?" Charles asked, pressing, testing him he realized. While his head was busy thinking his mouth spoke for him, "yes."

"Let me finish this, they could bring trouble to the mansion" Erik insisted, again, searching for some reason that Charles might find good enough to look the other way. His friend laughed quietly, a soft burble of bland amusement. "Back to that are we, then." The telepath's face warred between dismay and something to fast gone for Erik to decipher.

"Listen to me very carefully my friend" Charles said, the find bones of his hands resting on Erik's shoulder where he sat beside. "I will admit I bear no liking for these men, but as it stand you matter more than they, and you do not need their blood on your hands not - not over this." Over me. Erik is quite sure he had not been intended to hear that part.

"Especially over this!" he said, calm and cold and furious. It was a fury that dissipated like so much mist in the face of Charles quiet plead, "I want to go home now Erik." Standing on unsteady feet he set to do just that. Erik stepped forward an arm encircling his waist, "let me help." Charles allowed it, tentatively pressing close his presence warm and familiar, under the smell of sweat and sex he still smelled like Charles and ever so faintly of cinnamon. Erik decided on the sport that he rather liked it after all.

They paused at the door, Charles brining a hand to his temple as he stared down the man gibbering into the carpet. There was no compassion in his eyes as he wiped the mans memories, bleaching his brain clean like a 24 hour slate. "They will recall nothing when they wake" Charles explained, needlessly, Erik would rather them dead. "Brain dead would work just as well if that pleases your morals better." The telepath snorted when Erik thinks, rather pointed and loudly, they should not wake at all. "You're a fool" Erik said, just to be sure he'd been clear. "A damned, infuriating, to-good, fool ." Charles laughed, breathy with an underlying of bitterness that does not belong.

"There are worse things to be, than a fool" he says quietly words muffled against Erik's shoulder where he'd rested his head. Charles held tightly at his side, his stumbling gait worrying, Erik helped him slide into the convertible focusing all his will on pleasant thoughts.

The warm impression of Westchester Mansion, looming like home on the horizon blurring into nights spent under the stars, safety spanning like endless fields. Alex, rabid puppy look on his eye when he'd left, amusement curling in Erik's gut out weighting his annoyance. The hot glow of pride, secret and private but shared willingly as a confidence, in the knowledge that if they didn't get to it the children were liable to hunt them down like a pack of overzealous bloodhounds.

Beside him Charles laughed aloud, sounding more himself, and Erik grinned inordinately pleased. Mission accomplished. Charles glanced sideways, blue eyes suspiciously over-bright, and grinned a little too.

"Thank you for that, my friend."

"Your welcome."

AuthorsNote: Review, please.